“Hugh, Gladys and Anna Cleage of Scotten took their share of places in the annual city ice skating meet which was held at Belle Isle last Sunday afternoon. Anna won first place and a gold medal in the Senior girls’ novice; Gladys, third in the same event and a gold medal. Hugh competed in the men’s 220 and two-mile events.”
This article is from one of the Detroit daily papers and is undated, but I would place it in the early 1940s. Years later when I was talking about this photo with my aunt Anna, she said that the story was wrong and that actually she came in third and Gladys won the race. She remembered taking an early lead in the race but soon falling behind as Gladys easily over took her. They learned to skate at the Northwestern High School skating rink, which was a few blocks from their home on Scotten. When my sister and I were in high school at Northwestern in the early 1960s we skated at the same rink. We got racing skates because Hugh and Gladys were so cool skating on the Lagoon at Belle Isle, but we were never gold medal material. The old Northwestern High School is no longer there. It was torn down and a new school was build where the skating rink used to be.
In 1986 my husband and I moved to Idlewild, Michigan with our children. We lived on Idlewild Lake. When it was frozen we skated right in front of the house. Hugh and Gladys could still skate circles around us. During the summer when Gladys and I walked around the Lake, people from Detroit’s Old West Side would stop us to ask if she was the skating champion. She was in her early 60s. This week I wish I had some skates. It would make it so much easier to get around frozen Atlanta. Above is a picture of four of my children skating on Idlewild Lake about 1990. To see more Sepia Saturday offerings click here.
It was the summer of 1953. My sister and I stood on my uncle Louis Cleage’s dock in front of his cottage in Idlewild, Michigan holding our dolls. The summer of 1953 my mother, sister and I stayed with her parents on the East side while my father stayed with his parents on Atkinson. We were between houses as a Church fight had resulted in us having to vacate the parsonage. We moved to the new parsonage at 2254 Chicago at the end of the summer.
I remember riding on the floor of my grandparent’s car on the way there, my grandmother reading to us by kerosene lamp during a storm that put the electricity out, fishing off of the dock, the catfish that lived underneath it and being out of the city for an extended time for the first time in my life.
In the summer of 1945 my parents moved from Los Angeles, where my father had been studying film making, to Springfield, MA. He was the new pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church, an historic African American church. During their trip across country they stopped in Detroit to see their families. A trip to my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild was included. More photographs from that trip can be seen here – Idlewild 1945.
Back in the day, my uncles Hugh and Louis Cleage used to go up to Idlewild and ski. Sometimes my boy cousins got to go with them, but never any of the girls. It was a male bonding time, I guess. Anyway, we never did learn to ski, my sister and I, while the boy cousins became quite good at it. They sometimes went to Caberfae, a skiing resort very close to Idlewild. You can read about the history of Caberfae, with photographs, here Caberfae Peaks: 75 Years of Michigan Skiing.
My kids went cross country skiing there a few time. I wonder if I have any photos. Don’t seem to.
The summer of 1956, my mother would sometimes row over to the “island”, which was downtown Idlewild, not a real island, although you did have to go over a bridge or a drainage pipe to get there. At that time, Idlewild was booming, a place for black people to go in segregated America and forget about all that for awhile. Big name acts preformed at the Flamingo Club and there was a skating rink in the club house. But when we rowed over in the morning, we were going to get the paper or milk or something else mundane.
Sometimes my sister Pearl and I would take our savings and shop at Lee-Jon’s or at Ma Riddle’s Log Cabin. At Lee-John’s we bought tiny bears with movable limbs, about 3 inches tall. At Ma Riddle’s, we mainly looked while she tried to sell us salt and pepper
shakers that looked like picnic tables. Her store was a real log cabin. I don’t remember going inside because it was so small that the front was a shutter she raised and lowered and you looked at the merchandise right there.
I wonder why we weren’t wearing life jackets in the photo above. We certainly couldn’t swim at the time. There were life jackets because I remember playing in the water and wearing them. The lake was 4 miles around and there were spots, my Uncle Henry used to say, where the bottom had never been found.
My Aunt Gladys sent word this weekend that my parents did, indeed, spend some time in Michigan before moving on to Springfield. These photographs are in an album and labeled “En Route to Springfield.” Most of them were taken in Idlewild, at my Uncle Louis’ cottage. There were only a couple taken in Detroit, all of my cousin Dee Dee and her mother, Mary Vee in my Graham grandparents yard. My father may have been taking the photographs in Idlewild, because he doesn’t appear in any of them. Henry and Hugh are not in the photos because, I suppose, they were still on the farm.
I did not go caroling when I was growing up but most of my children did, sometimes with Church groups and sometimes with community groups. In the photograph above my son Cabral (age 6) was the only one in the family to go caroling. He decided he wanted to and he did.